Sunday, May 4, 2008

Break-Ups and Broken-Hearted

Fresh from losing my old friend Quan and seeing how much his widow grieves, another friend came to me with her own break-up and separation. It's not proper to reveal the details of her break-up but suffice to say, she's really broken-hearted.

When you love someone deeply, it's really agonizing and utterly disorienting to lose that person. Especially if you spend a lot of time with him/her and your life revolves around that person. So as she shared with me how she wish he will change his mind or how uncertain life is without him, I felt so helpless and sad that a person has to go through so much pain from the failure of a relationship. I tried to comfort her by suggesting she stay calm, live one day at a time and keep busy with work or hobbies knowing very well it's easier said than done. Then my mind reflect back to the Buddha's teachings that there is dukkha in life, it's inescapable as long as we are trap in Samsara (rounds of birth and rebirth). I felt calmer and this strengthened my resolve to be there for her as much as possible.

Around the same time, my old buddy in US called and told me that his relationship of 8 years with his girlfriend is on the verge of a break-up. I knew the both of them quite well and I was shocked to hear after being in a long distance relationship for so long, she wants to call it quits. Well, life can be unpredictable at times, and I can testify to that. Again, I felt lost and defeated simply because I cannot think of one concrete solution to offer him to save his dear relationship.

Whenever I hear of relationship break-ups and friends broken-hearted, my thoughts race to Dhammapadha Verse 61 of which the Buddha asked us to choose the right partner otherwise just stay single (my understanding of it). But this is really hard to do for many people, especially when most of us (me included) crave love, attention, emotional and physical satisfaction, or what Buddhism call attachment to sense pleasure. Personally, this is one tough nut to crack. Through the few break-ups my friends have shared with me, I've resisted sharing this verse with them because I've learned that sharing the Dhamma must be tempered by wisdom and compassion. So I decided to just focus on being there for them whenever they need me. I hope they'll do the same for me when I'm down.

All these sorrowful episodes made me depressed and I wonder why we all have to go through so much pain whenever our relationship failed. I mean, why have relationship at all if the risk is such bitter agony from break-ups and separations. Then I called my 4 years old daughter to say hello and asked her how's her day. She greeted me with enthusiasm, and she told me she had "chicken, carrot and potato" for her dinner. Her sweet and cute little voice lifted me and suddenly it dawned on me: children don't have relationship blues, why? Of course they don't have the kind of relationships adults have but the point is: they have simple needs. They don't feel the pain we feel because they have simple needs. This does NOT mean I'm against romantic relationship but rather I'm sharing a discovery I've made that if we reduce our craving (in this instance, for "love" of all kinds), we can reduce our suffering. And this is not to say if I do face a break-up, I'll not feel sad. But it put things in perspective: if we do suffer break-ups, it's not the end of the world. Remember the times that we were happy with just "chicken, carrot and potato".

Some useful articles:
Breakdown of a break-up - what, when, why, how?

How to cope - as dumper and dumpee (pardon the phrases, it's in the article)